Wednesday, June 10, 2009

People Of The Blog

Haaretz tried something this morning that feels curiously right in unexpected ways. To celebrate "Hebrew Book Week," the paper asked a dozen or so of Israel's best selling writers, Yoram Kaniuk, David Grossman, Etgar Keret, to go out and cover something. The result feels both reassuringly retro and visionary at the same time.

Retro, because the radically secular implication of Hebrew culture is not so easily taken for granted these days. When Netanyahu says "Jewish state," and both Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef and Las Vegas spiritual leader Sheldon Adelson nod approvingly, I know I am in trouble. Actually, the very name of the week in question implicitly acknowledges a continuing (dare I say Zionist?) delight in the sheer novelty of a Jewish experience grounded in an inclusive national language. Which is why Israelis still celebrate "Hebrew Book Week," after all--something like the French ordering French fries. Adam Lebor captures this celebration in his lovely piece about Tel-Aviv in the current Condé Nast Traveler.

But there is another remarkable thing about the paper this morning. It reads like a bundle of fine blog posts. There is voice and creative engagement in these pieces, which does not mean a want of facts or rules of evidence. As Ram Oren put it on Israeli radio this morning, we have a hundred ways of getting (and Twittering) breaking news qua happenings: the Supreme Court issued this ruling, the earthquake was this number on the Richter scale. But getting at the truth is another matter, and a writer has to ask, as Oren asks (using a somewhat materialist phrase, but never mind), "what is the value-added?" Haaretz did not quite ask that question this morning. But I suspect that, if it will still be here 10 years from now, it has given us a peek at the way it will survive.


David Seaton's Newslinks said...

What I am really afraid of is that one of these settlers, who is an American citizen, who can enter the US without any restriction, who can blend into an American crowd without being noticed as "foreign looking", who has had military training, will try to kill Obama the same way they killed Yitzak Rabin... Then the shit will really hit the fan.

If an Israeli wingnut was able to kill the prime minister of Israel and has received a lot of support in Israel for doing so, why should anyone think that an attempt on "Kushon" Obama would be out of the question.

Y. Ben-David said...

I suggest David Seaton's newslinks read the Shamgar Commission Report on the Rabin Assassination. The investigation found that the person closest to the assassin Amir in the months previous to the murder was an agent of the Israeli SHABAK internal security force. He openly encouraged Amir to try to kill Rabin on many occasions. So please explain to me why the security people who were supposed to protect Rabin allowed a known extremist who hated Rabin into the "sterile zone" Rabin was walking in and why not one of the bodyguards protecting Rabin was looking backwards to protect Rabin from that direction, the direction Amir came from? I could go on, but I'll leave it at this.

Potter said...

What these comments have to do with this post I do not know - perhaps because I have only begun to read the excellent articles on Haaretz by Hebrew writers. Maybe I'll find out.

But anent the above I'll hold my nose and suggest the Steven Plaut article: Israel's Plague of Conspiracism"

From it:

In contrast, Israeli conspiracists, obsessed with proving that some manner of conspiracy was behind the Rabin assassination, have never produced a single shred of real evidence to back their arguments. Instead, their investigations consist of combing through public records, photos, and reports about the assassination and asking questions about seeming inconsistencies. The problem is that asking a question about a "seeming inconsistency" is not the same thing as producing evidence to back a conspiracy theory, and all such seeming inconsistencies were considered and dismissed by the Shamgar Commission.

Virtually every "question" raised by the conspiracists about the Rabin assassination has by now been fully explained away and answered............

........What about Avishai Raviv, the "mole" police agent running the radical right-wing organization (Ayal) to which Yigal Amir belonged? Did not the conspiracists do remarkable work in exposing Raviv?

Actually, the conspiracists had nothing to do with the exposure of the role of Raviv. The story was a scoop by journalists at the left-wing newspaper Haaretz - proving that the Israeli media are perfectly capable of uncovering real misdeeds, as opposed to imaginary ones. Raviv's role was to infiltrate far right and potentially violent groups in Israel. Given Amir's later behavior, such surveillance was clearly justified.

Raviv evidently was also improperly used to conduct Nixon-style "dirty tricks" to discredit the Israeli Right. However, Raviv's only "role" in the Rabin assassination was that he misjudged Amir's talk about "getting Rabin" as mere bravado. Raviv was cleared of "failure to stop the assassination" by an Israeli court, as indeed he should have been. Whether he and his bosses should have been investigated for the "dirty tricks" campaign is a separate issue (I happen to think they should have), but the answer to that is unrelated to the lunatic theories of the conspiracists about the assassination.

Shoded Yam said...

To celebrate "Hebrew Book Week," the paper asked a dozen or so of Israel's best selling writers, Yoram Kaniuk, David Grossman, Etgar Keret, to go out and cover something. The result feels both reassuringly retro and visionary at the same time."

What happens when you get tired of all the Sturm und Drang and soul seraching prose? What happens when you just wanna' read crap? If Batya Gur was still alive, they'd probably have her over at Maariv this week. Etgar Keret? Sure, if you want to THINK. But for real fun, I'll take the Harold Robbins of Israel any time, ahahahahahaha ;-) Aargh

Y. Ben-David said...

I am glad you pointed out that the criminal "dirty tricks" campaign against the Right was never investigated.

Odd that Raviv heard Amir repeatedly saying he wanted to kill Rabin but, "dismissing it as bravado he didn't report it to his superiors".

It is also very odd that the head of the SHABAK at the time, Carmi Gillon, who was responsible for the biggest foul-up in the SHABAK's history, the murder of the Prime Minister whom they were supposed to protect, was given two very nice jobs by Rabin's successor, Shimon Peres. One would think someone in that position would drop out of sight, but he remains to this day a major public figure for some strange reason. The first job he got was that Peres appointed him head of the "Shimon Peres Peace Center". It was reported that it was a sinecure job that paid good money, but Gillon had plenty of time to hang out in his favorite health club. After that, Peres somehow still felt indebted to him for some reason, so he appointed him Israeli Ambassador to Denmark. Today he is Mayor of Mevasseret Zion.
I am sure that all of this is a coincidence, right?
Another odd thing is that Rabin's bodyguard, who was "looking the wrong way" was later appointed head of the SHABAK department responsible for supplying bodyguards for public figures. I am sure they all felt very secure since he was in charge of keeping them alive.

In any event, Seaton above has nothing to worry about regarding President Obama. He is not being protected by the SHABAK. He gets US Secret Service Protection, and they don't have a history of carrying out "dirty tricks" like the SHABAK did or does.

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